Her Example to Me

4 Dec

I’ve known this day was coming for a while now, like that scratchy throat feeling before the big cold settles in. I know the signs all too well, saw many others face the same decisions, the same gut-wrenching dilemma of holding on a bit longer. Or the harder of letting go. I didn’t wake up this morning knowing. I thought maybe I had more time. Maybe my heart was wrong on this one.

But in her silent ways, she was telling me.

You see, she came to me when the sun liked to hang high and long during the days. When Graham and I had only just started out, our love untested, yet true. She had come before my real babies. When I myself was still sort of a baby in many ways. She watched me for the first time with her extra skin falling everywhere. My hopes of a small dog dashed when I knew she’d have to fill those big paws and extra folds.

She was special because she was the first. She represented youth and beginning chapters and life and all those fun things we step into before we’re truly ready to step into the ‘kid’ scene. And we loved her for that.

She traveled first across country to me, not from a mill but from a friend who had me in mind. After that first day together, her leash tied to my belt loop, us tripping over each other in the chaos of my work, we figured it all out. She was mine and I was hers. The bond had been set with that leash.

The years would pass with her. Her favorite pastime watching me. Walking with me. Waiting for me. Riding with me. Forgiving me. Swimming with me. Loving me. Following me everywhere I went. I’d joke with my family that if I went off a cliff, so would Ivy.

She quietly watched as the first human came. Then another. Then another. Then another.

Her seat in the front got moved to the back. Soon, she didn’t even go anywhere as I was camped out in diapers and crumbs and snotty noses and sticky hands.

She took them in. But only because they were my blood. She was happy enough to just watch me. Be by my side. Walk when we could walk. Ride alongside the horses when she could. Camp under the shade of the bush while I chased the kids.

Almost every picture of me holds her in it. The ones you can’t see her in, if you were to just zoom out a bit, you’d catch her there. Waiting, sometimes impatiently, for me to make a move. Go somewhere. Find an adventure together.

And we found many together. But today was our last.

She faltered today in a way that I knew she wasn’t going to come back to me in her right mind or body. Yet there she lay in my yard clinging to life. A suffering life.

My mom brought me the gun, took the kids and gave me my space. I didn’t have time to bring her somewhere. I didn’t have time to call Graham. And part of me didn’t want to. Part of me knew I had to do this on my own. I had been with her since the beginning, and for me; I had to be there with her in her end.

Taking a gun barrel that is pointed toward the heavens and forcing it to the ground on one you love, is no easy task. But I had to do it.

Now, I’m a realist. And I’m well aware she’s just a dog. I am not comparing my little heartache today to those dealing with real tragedy. I’m simply choosing to see what I can from her life.

I mean no disrespect but I saw her much like I see my relationship with Christ. She was always there. Almost annoyingly so. She put up with me. Loved me unconditionally, with no strings attached. Ever.

She watched me. Sought after me. Longed to be with me. Her loyalty drove my husband and family mad at times. She was sold out for me. In her eyes I was perfect. Blameless.

If only everyone saw me as she did.

I believe she was a small glimpse of Christ’s love for me. Because of His work and because I’m His saint He does look at me blameless, and perfect. Even though my flesh fails me.

We ended our day with a hole and a ceremony, tears and remembrance of our special friend. Her example to me a constant reminder of His love. His forgiveness. His continual pursuit of my time and heart.






Ivy on the left. Her ‘sister’ Roxie is still with us.



In the background, waiting for something more.


Always with me.


Staring lovingly at me at all times.



My Reminder

12 Feb

I catch myself most every day still.

Even after all these short years, reminders and memories hit me during the strangest of times with my heart jamming in my throat like my kids jam their knees in my side as we play puppy or transformers or kick tag.

It’s in the little things. It’s in the big ones. It’s in his memory loss. It’s in his new walk tilted with an ever-slight limp not many would even notice. It’s in his head slant while he drives trying to force two objects into one. It’s in his Botox injections. It’s right below his Adam’s apple where his once smooth neck carries a dime-sized mark indented a bit where the tubes once lived.

Lately, it’s been this latter one that catches at me most.

This heartthrob I get, this snag of my breath, this drop of a tear or moment of stillness where I almost can’t move, is never one of pity for him or myself. Never one of wishing things differently for us, or that none of it had happened.

It’s simply my reminder.

Located in the most perfect of places for me to see, just about eye level, pink against his white skin, the size of my thumbprint. I wondered if it would always pop at me like the cherry it was when he first came home. I wondered if he’d be embarrassed about it. It had saved his life, breathing for him when he could not, but still, there it sits now, forever a part of him.

Believe me, I know what life I should be living with Graham. I know I should be pushing him around in a wheel chair, or unable to push him at all. I know I should be feeding him myself, helping him communicate, move him from the bed, to the toilet, to the shower, to his clothes. I know I should be throwing the ball to his boys, wrestling them, tucking them in.

I know all this because I know how close I came to losing him.

At night while he sleeps his deepest sleep, his brain so tired when the sun sets, I sometimes reach my hand to his neck and trace that scar with my finger. I feel it to see if it’s still there, still smooth, still dipped in. When I do this I can hear the ventilator pushing air; I hear the beeping, the stillness, the plastic wrappings holding sterile equipment being opened and tossed into the trash. I smell those hospital smells, I can smell Graham lying there and remember how he didn’t smell the same after awhile. I see nurses and doctors, family. I see elevators and feel the long rides, the sleepless nights.

Some days that scar on his neck hits me right between the eyes with all The Lord has done. Things like healthy babes, and a happy marriage and a roof over our heads with food and more clothing and shoes than we need; a secure job with heat to stay warm and even room for a few extras. Love for each other and our God. Forgiveness, tender mercies. Grace and gratitude. The list goes on and on.

I’d love to say it’s like this everyday for me, this constant remembrance, visual of sorts that I have. But many days that silly scar almost vanishes under my insecurities, my impatience with Graham or the kids, my plain weariness from life. It just about fades as I grasp for more and feel I deserve this or that and demand my way with time for myself. It’s as if it’s not even there.

I’m learning we all have them, these perfectly placed scars, some unseen but still felt, others set meticulously in our way, prodding us not into self-pity, anger, but more into love for one another, forgiveness, patience, a heart of gratefulness, thanksgiving.

I am not special, or different from anybody else. The scars I have are no deeper than the next persons. We have them like the noses on our face. Where things differ is what we do with these scars. When we choose to remember our history story with Jesus our perspectives and lives change. It’s good to remember the past.

I remember when Graham first opened his eyes. It was enough. I was so thankful!

But then he started twitching fingers and toes and trying to do a few other small movements. Suddenly, open eyes wasn’t a big deal. I wasn’t thankful for that anymore because I had moved onto ‘bigger and better’ things.

Now, I’ve got him back and only a few things remain for me to even see where we once were. That scar is one of them.

I’m thankful for that scar. I’m thankful it’s right there in front of me, everyday peering out, looking right into my soul, reminding me of so much more than I could ever share, even with Graham.

I just have to choose to see it!

What we’ve been up to:


This baby has a joyful soul!


Bat-girl! She protects me during the day!


we are obsessed with coloring, drawing, painting and anything art-related!


We also love star-wars! I’ve gotten quite good at playing Darth Vader complete with my own light saber!


just some recent pictures of the kids.


Graham getting some air behind the snowmobile


Grammy and her ‘boyfriend’


Graham with his other ‘leading lady’


Some of my favorite ‘men’

Which One?

7 Nov

I truly live in one of the most beautiful places on the planet—it’s been this way my whole life. I’ve never traveled far, haven’t had to. I know I’ve got it good here with the mountains, streams, rivers, dense forests filled with trees.

It’s been these trees lately that have really made me appreciate all over again the creativity of God, His humor almost. Who would’ve thought to change the leaves into the most brilliant colors, as if their life were timeless, rather than the reality of their imminent death? Their death has to be one of the most beautiful.


We stare, we click pictures, we gaze in amazement, we climb higher to see, we wonder how it all happens.

For a short while, time stands still as colors burst and pop like fireworks, except this show lasts much longer than the sparks.

It’s the maple trees that usually grab at us hardest. Those oranges, reds, like blood running down the hills—there’s nothing like it.

I walk with my daughter just about everyday. We adventure through the trails behind our home, she with leaves clenched in her fist, a collection for later, me pushing the stroller over roots and bumps with more life.

It must’ve been the colors, or the way the shadows fall this time of year, or the blue sky overhead. Whatever the reason, we were drawn to look up. To stare at the height, the size, the color of these maples. There are many, too many to count even, and it’s the height, not their leaves, that got my head and heart reeling with thoughts.


For any tree it’s a quiet competition of sorts to get higher and higher—if they don’t, they’re done, a blanket forming over them from others reaching, snuffed out in the darkness of the forest.

And I saw that without The Light, they simply wouldn’t survive.

For some, it’s easy though. A maple in our own yard planted there by my father many years ago, has no such battle to fight. It stands alone surrounded by endless sunshine, its trunk short and thick, a beauty for sure in all its strength, enduring and thriving here.

I couldn’t help but wonder which I was? That tall skinny one, using all my energy just to reach The Light in time to survive? Or the thicker one? Large and stocky, my branches full of leaves, my shape round and perfect, The Light always there sustaining me.

I’ve been struggling for weeks to get this written, time more precious to me than silver these days. My delay in part has been from my own battle as I struggled to find an answer. I was sure there could only be one. But could there be more?

You see, for a while I thought I was that hefty maple, the one strong and beautiful, thick and healthy because of what The Light had done for me. I even pictured myself planted there on purpose, chosen and nurtured. Adopted.

But, my mind kept going back to those tall ones. The ones forced to grow fast, to keep up, their trunks skinny and sometimes mangled in their journey to the top. Their branches aren’t as numerous, making less leaves, less color. They hold scars and wounds. And they oftentimes get lost in the crowd of forests.

But they still produce a beautiful scene especially when you’ve hiked those high peaks and take in the bigger picture below, each one right where it needs to be. Each one perfect in The Light’s eyes.

Winter is almost upon us and only a few stubborn leaves remain. The show’s almost over and I’m still not sure which tree I am.

Maybe sometimes I’m both.

Whichever I am and wherever my branches bud, I’ll do what both have to and reach for The Light everyday.


***A special thanks to Rambow Photography***





Would the real Graham Stump please stand up

17 Sep

It’s finally time.

Time to update. Time to write more consistently and share again. It’s true that all along this has been more for me and my own release—some choosing to look on, to follow, to read. A few following closely while others watching from a safe distance. Either way, I figure even if there’s just one, one heart that’s encouraged, or one soul strengthened—it’s worth the time.

I have purposefully stayed away for a time, my body, my mind and my spirit pushed to a place of chaos and survival. When I am with child, my physical state is one of complete and total sickness, weariness. It’s extremely hard to remain steadfast, joyful, happy, when you physically aren’t yourself. I turn into a host to this alien creature that only wants to suck the life from me. If only someone could hand me the newborn without all the pregnancy stuff, I’d take a baker’s dozen!

Now, I feel a sense of compassion for those suffering with chronic illnesses or other ailments.

I say it every time as I lay there tracing their little faces while matching up their hands to mine—all the tears I shed, all the time my body spent trying to reject this baby…..were worth it! It truly is a blessing to be able to have children. And I know that!

I say all this because I have wanted to wait until now to really share how things are in our home. I didn’t want to be clouded by my unruly sickness, or branded by the emotions always bubbling right there. I want to give an accurate update—even to those who see us often and know us. Or think they do.

Let’s get one thing out on the table, just in case you were wondering—things in our home are completely chaotic.

But I mean that in a good way!

We welcomed a little boy on July 28th and we call him Craig Matthew Stump, Craig, C-raig, or Ghetto Craig for short. He is such an added blessing to our home and we couldn’t be happier with him. I was afraid I wouldn’t like him because my heart wanted a girl, a girl for Fallon to grow with. Yet, never once have I wanted to give him up or change him. He has captured my heart with his simple glances my way. I didn’t know I could love someone so much.


It’s true what they say when you have lots of kids, especially all young ones like we do. You feel like you’re treading water while holding all your kids and then someone hands you another one and you’re forced to keep treading that water. Graham is a horrible swimmer too, so if this were a true analogy, I’d be the one with all the kids on my back, drowning for sure.

We have had to let lots of things go for now, and prioritize everything carefully. On top of all that, we DO continue to live with a brain injury in our home. That’s what remains hard for people to truly understand sometimes. Especially people who see us when we’re out places—church, town, school etc.

It’s always there.


4 years have come and gone (the anniversary falling just 2 days after Craig was born) and for me, most days, I truly remain in a state of thankfulness. Thankful for how far Graham has come. For how much the Lord did and continues to do in our lives and our marriage because of it.

The things Graham has ‘lost’ are small compared to where he was a long time ago, and compared to others with brain injuries he’s doing great! However, he DOES still live with struggles, frustrations and the fact that he’s not what he used to be in many areas.

If you were to ask Graham what bothers him the most, he would say his left arm. He continues to receive botox injections in that arm/hand and probably will for the rest of his life. While that arm looks and even acts somewhat normal, it’s not normal for Graham. He struggles to grasp things, hold onto things and move things with it. It’s weaker than the other side and while he uses it, if he gets in a jam, he will simply use the stronger arm to do the job. Watching him button his pants in the morning always breaks my heart a bit as he has to clasp the belt loop and pull it in a way so his hand won’t slip.

His entire left side is weaker now than his right. He doesn’t have the balance he once did—his days of climbing roofs are over. Part of his balance issues come from his vision. He continues to see double of everything with the glasses helping some, but not correcting it completely. He doesn’t have any depth perception so it’s hard for him to tell where something starts or ends. This makes him more cautious in everything he does. And it shows as he won’t participate in things he once loved.

His days of roping off his horse are over.

Jumping the dirt bikes and even riding them fast are over.

Sports are pretty much over for him as he trips easily or stumbles and can’t regain his balance.

Playing the drums like he once did are over.

These are small things to lose. I know that. But these things helped make up Graham and having to say goodbye to them at such a young age IS hard.

We all have to say goodbye to things as we age. Graham just had to do it a lot sooner than most. He’s my 70 year old husband, rather than 31 year old:)

For me as his wife, I would say I struggle with his memory more than anything else. Graham suffers from short-term memory loss and everyday is a challenge. He’s learned ways to trick all of you, but for me, I have to live with it.

Day in and day out.

In a lot of ways, he’s like a child when it comes to this area. And that does get sad for me.

We often have to talk about something several times before it truly sinks in. Any change to routine or a decision made has to be discussed and talked about many times over. Some things he’s good with. Others he’s not. And some days I just don’t have the patience after a long day with the kids and their own ‘memory losses.’

What’s hard for me, is that I’m unsure what he’s remembering and what he’s not. I try to hold onto the hope that he’s remembering everything we share/talk about together. But who knows? I don’t like quizzing him and I hate when I make him feel bad about it, so I just don’t bring it up anymore.

Please understand I have everything I need from Graham and then some! He’s an amazing husband and dad! He’s our spiritual leader, our protector, provider. He’s come so far and I couldn’t be more proud of him. He’s been through a lot, yet you’d never hear that from him and he doesn’t use it as a crutch. His steadfastness and commitment to us is honorable—I know he’ll be blessed for it.

We live a chaotic life. But it’s one I wouldn’t trade for all the world.

Some of you have prayed from the beginning. Some have followed closely while others look on from afar, saying nothing.

Either way is fine with me. I just wanted you to know:

His injury is long-lasting, but we are not bleeding out here like a wounded deer. We are thriving, happy and while some days ARE hard, we carry on because it’s HIS mercies that are made new each morning!

* I won’t be so serious in my next post, I prefer laughter!…I have a special treat coming soon brought to you by Craig Stump, stay tuned!*

*Also, if you’re new to this blog and want to read more about what happened to Graham, it should be on the side bar*

Here’s some recent pictures….

DSC_4755DSC_4544Graham pretending to sleep while I labor….

DSC_4657DSC_4622hot off the press!


10629442_10203447948736676_6659394189956870621_oOur most recent addition to the family!  His name is Joey and we love him.

















Waiting for Someone Special

30 Jun

I’ve been quiet on here lately and while I’d love to think its silence is on purpose, it’s more that life marches on and sometimes the weeks fly faster than those birds overhead of me, the ones I oftentimes don’t notice anymore.

Lately I’ve been forced to slow my movements, my body unable to keep up with all that’s spinning around it as it prepares for that big arrival of life.

These days, I’m simply waiting for someone special.

Someone I’ve known now for quite some time; yet struggle to put a face on him, or her. My thoughts swim of exactly who you’re going to be while at the same time you dance through the night, pushing my body to its limit, my hands to the antacid tablets time and time again. But finally for me, this wait is almost over. And I must admit it’s bittersweet.

I’ve struggled with so much this time around—guilt from not even wanting you some days, crying and sobbing over spilled milk, and the reality that I’m going to be a mom to a brand new ‘you’, sleepless nights guaranteed.

You don’t make me glow. You don’t bring out my best on most days and you’re great at getting what you want. I know I’m in for it! Yet, I’ve fought hard for you. I’ve done my best to enjoy you here in this quiet before you appear, before everyone else gets a good look at you. I’ve done my best to accept my body and the way it treats you more as a parasite, me this helpless host holding you for just a time, vomiting and fighting the place you call home the entire 9 months.

Yet months after feeling not ready, months of battling myself and God and my husband and all others within reach….

I still don’t feel ready.

I’m still not sure how I’m going to do this with four little ones all under the age of six.

I’ve read the articles. I’ve giggled at other mother’s stories and challenges, their life with kids, the way they feel defeated more times than not. The way they try to see the humor, try to put their faith and trust in God, pray, stay consistent, laugh, cry, scream and desperately lasso in their thoughts time and time again as they struggle with the images of themselves doing something harmful to their precious little ones.

There’s always the same conclusion to all the articles I’ve read, God-centered or not: being a mom is the toughest job there is, and you’re never quite ready for it.

And yet, so many sign up for it—me included. And not just once, but twice, three times, four, or more!

I will continue to struggle with all the same feelings young mom’s get. I will continue to struggle with accepting my role as something of importance, something priceless, exhilarating, high-paying, meaningful, and well worth it all the time, everyday, 24/7.

It just doesn’t work like that.

But what does work, is the fact that these little varmints Graham and I are raising day in and day out were picked special for us. And we for them. No one can do the job of raising our kids quite like Graham and I, because for now, this is where the Lord has us. These little souls depend on us to show them the Way. So, for now it’s completely okay that I’m just ‘doing the mom thing,’ because in reality, it’s SO much more than ‘just a mom thing’.

Whether we’re ready or not, we welcome you little one into our fold; we embrace the fact that it IS going to be tough. The toughest yet. But don’t worry, there will still be lots of laughter over and around you, indescribable blessings because of you, the miracle of life in you and in the story God has created in our family. And above all else…

Love….for you! We can’t wait to meet you!








A different kind of Tribute

18 Apr

He came as quite a surprise to my parents, my mother purchasing the chestnut mare with high hopes of her being the perfect fit for my older sister, which she was. My own mother’s belly was growing with me inside and it became clear—so was this mare’s.

Never having had a baby horse, my parent’s I’m sure were excited, who doesn’t think baby horses are cute? But, they had to be a bit nervous and scared. What were they to do with a foal? What was to become of this horse?

He came like fawns do, mostly legs but without the spots and he would stay as one of our own. Somehow he’d fit in. Somehow he’d work into the growing family. Little did we all know at the time, he’d end up doing just that.

While he kicked up his young heals, I grew. While he frolicked around the corral, I watched. My mother would be the first on his back having read and re-read how to do this training thing. For never having done it—they did just fine. He wouldn’t grow huge, just a small horse, but his personality and willingness to submit to those over him would become his charm.

The adventures I had on the horse we called Maverick have helped mold me into the person I am today.

Now, I realize, he’s just a horse.

However, he was my horse. My first horse. And he followed me through my life, teaching me all along the way. He was the first one to buck me off, the first to teach me that flying doesn’t have to happen way up high. He grew with me and I with him and we somehow fit, my long legs draped against his short ones.

We’d rip around our field, the 3 barrels the most fun to capture. I learned to stand on his back while he ran—a feat not many young girls could do.

That horse taught me more about responsibility and love, patience and loyalty than most people or sermons, or lectures ever have. Many of my life lessons came from that horse and I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to ride such rides with such a horse.

Of course, horses get older, just as people do, and while horses live longer than dogs, cats and fish, they still don’t live forever. Many weeks ago, on a sunny wintery day, our beloved Maverick had to be put down.

He was full of arthritis, too much for me to ride anymore. His mind wasn’t as sharp and he moved with a crick or two.

But, he was still loved. Loved even until the end.

Most people don’t keep a horse for 30 years. They outgrow them. Get sick of paying for them. Whatever the reason, it’s rare to keep a horse so long.

Our entire family felt his loss. It wouldn’t be just me who would shed tears at his departure. My mother may have started him, but he worked through many of my families hands, my pair just one set. My young niece was the most recent pupil of his and she loved that horse as I had.

We say farewell to a friend, a teacher, a loyal companion and we treasure the lessons learned, the memories made and the lives touched by one simple little horse.

Goodbye my friend.



Just a Phase?

5 Mar

Sometimes I find my teeth gritting and hands clenching at those ‘phases’ the kids enter. I hope it all passes quickly, trying to wait it out, watching and praying for some sort of miracle to pass over our house—for my child to return to normal.

Yet, there’s been this one thing both boys have been doing for quite a while now that will absolutely break my heart if and when they outgrow it.

What’s sad is I’d hate to see them outgrow this one. And what’s more troubling is they really shouldn’t outgrow it. The ‘phase’ may still linger in their adulthood, yet the extreme persistence, sensitively, obsession, will most likely slow, if not stop altogether.

You see it comes while we listen to the radio or ipod.  It came as we watched skiers race, snowboarders jump and skaters twirl on the Olympics.  They ask as we travel the aisles of the grocery store, as we sit in our church seats, and go to school each day. Basically, whenever they see or hear another human being—it’s always the same:

 “Mom, do they know God?” or “Dad, do they love God?”

They’ve questioned me on Dave Matthews, Brian Williams, Chris Tomlin—if they have seen you, or heard you, they have asked about YOU.  And instead of feeling like I’m solving some amazing math equation, or scientific problem, I’m oftentimes left with questions of my own.

When did I stop caring if everyone knew Jesus? At what age did my heart stop the sensitivity toward their eternal life? Sure, I care. But for everyone?  All souls? Every. single. one? Even the ones that rub me the wrong way?

I tell myself I’m busy trying to raise a young family. I need to focus on them, their little hearts. I’m busy serving in church. Isn’t that good enough?  Most of the time I tell myself—I’m just plain busy.

But the truth is, many people around me are on their way to eternal separation from God. No Jesus. No peace. No love. No one caring for them.

Somehow even knowing this truth, I can continue on. Like nothing is wrong. Like I have it altogether.

If only.

The Lord has commanded me to go.

And I’ve been ignoring Him. Maybe not entirely on purpose. Remember that young family I’m raising? Most of my days are spent within the walls of my home knee deep in diapers, laundry, morning sickness, homework, animal chores and dirt.  I physically can’t always go.

Still, each day I do get out.  I drive through my small town on my way to school.  I stop at the market, the library, the local businesses carrying out my own.

And I know with my whole heart it’s here I’m suppose to go.

It’s here I’m suppose to smile and wave as I pass the school flag lady as she stands in the bitter cold, the STOP sign huge in her hands.

It’s here I’m suppose to pause and say hello to that teenager lighting up outside Town Hall. I don’t know him or the chains draped from his pants, but I know I’m suppose to.

It’s here I’m suppose to actually talk to the cashiers in our local gas station, learn their names, remember them and not just because they have a name tag clipped to their shirt.

I don’t want to be that mom tucked nicely in her mini-van, a frown on my face as I dart here then there, my children wearing the same expression as my own.  I don’t want to be so consumed in my own world I forget those around me. And I don’t mean ‘forget those hurting, or lost, or confused, or angry, or happy around me’—No. I simply don’t want to forget.

I want that heart that wonders constantly about their eternal lives. Every heart I pass I want to ask the question:

‘Do they know God? Do they love Him?’


Fallon is not picky about how she gets her ‘Ear-Time’




IMG_0961Left pointer finger in mouth….right hand holding someone’s…anyone’s ear.

Secrets from Stumps

23 Jan

You will find this to be an abnormal blog post from me. It’s one I actually had to dig deep on, racking my brain and pondering over for days.  Still, I hope you enjoy as I was challenged to do this and couldn’t possibility resist the call.

I am oftentimes intrigued with how families do things. What secrets do they hold?  What tips are they using to make things run a bit smoother in their homes? With all these kids rumbling about, I felt I had nothing to offer, nothing to give in this department. I feel most days I’m just surviving, throwing animal crackers at them in hopes of quenching their hunger and somehow their thirst all at once.

A mom can dream, right?

As I got thinking on our simple little lives up here in these cold woody mountains, my brain had to go way outside the box of recipe tricks, cleaning tips and childhood crafts. Honestly, the reason I had to venture outside that box is because I carry none of those ‘tricks’ anyway.

Maybe you can take just one of mine though and put it to your own use…maybe.


::  Traveling anywhere for us is a BIG deal. Church. Wal-mart.  It all causes quite a stir, the kids loving any sort of adventure. My husband’s family is from Indiana, a stout 800 miles from my upper New York roots.  We make the journey about once a year and have done this for years.  I am prepared now. A veteran of sorts as I pack and arrange and sort through the things to go and the things to stay. As the kids have come along I don’t leave home without this baby.


I recommend a screw lid for a secure hold and to fill the container 1/3 of the way with water to squelch smells and such. Labeling the container helps with any confusion of homemade lemonade brought on the trip and we carry only one simple rule: no #2 in the port-a-potty—for that we will make a stop.

In extreme emergencies such as traffic jams or Graham’s lead foot, I have even succumbed and found myself balancing in the back of the minivan praying I’m not scarring my children for life.

Think what you will, but it has saved our lives many times.

::  The undiagnosed ezecyma, the heavy static electricity in the house, the raised hair from the children passing by, were all tell-tale signs I had to do something about our extremely dry house during the winter months—it all can last a while here.

We invested in one of these from the Home Depot and it’s been one of the best things we’ve done.  No more dry skin, no more static electricity and when I see the raised hair I know it’s simply time to fill the tank once more.  Everyone is happy again, including my houseplants!

::  I received this as a gift for the boys and it’s been a great read for them.  I highly recommend it if you have children that love those Bible stories, but want more action mixed in with it all. My boys love the pictures. Also, we LOVE this guy and read lots of his poems. We do lots of giggling and snorting and talking about how ingenious the workings of his mind are.

::  We are horse people. And part of having horses is feeding them, watering them, trimming their hooves, the whole nine yards.  With living in the extreme cold it can be a hassle to keep waters unfrozen and working the way they should.  It also costs extra to heat their water as most systems use electricity.  We bit the bullet and bought one of these quite a few years ago and have never regretted it.  When properly installed this thing never freezes and uses no power to work.  Each time the horses get a drink, it’s fresh and clean and cold—just how they like it. Even with temps topping out in the -20’s, this thing works like a charm.

::  We have chickens.  During the summer we raise meat chickens and all year we have laying hens.  The meat chickens, while extra work have proved to be well worth it for us.  I love how they taste and there’s just something about growing something yourself that just feels better.  I get anywhere from 8-11 eggs a day and while I realize most can’t have chickens or just plain don’t want them it’s worth knowing how good their eggs and meat truly taste. Graham has mastered the art of slaughtering and plucking and with my smaller hands I have become quite fast at gutting and cleaning.  We make a great team.

::  I give these to my dogs instead of the nylabones.  Nylabones have been shown to crack and chip teeth, while these are softer and easier to chew, yet still take them awhile to work through. By awhile I mean maybe 10 minutes. So if you have a real chewer, this probably won’t work for your dog. I give them more as treats.

::  Graham uses this batman gear every. single. day.  IMG_0891

He feels naked without each piece.  About once a year he breaks his Leatherman using it on something he probably shouldn’t be. However, the company graciously replaces it every time. That is a pack of gum you’re seeing there. He’s addicted.

:: When I’m not pregnant I use this work out video. I usually want to die, but something keeps me going. I think it’s Jillian’s encouragement to me that I can do it!  I will be joining her once again sometime this summer after baby #4 has arrived.

::  We turn our TV off.  That’s right.  We usually do it during the summer months, but I have it off now because I was getting sick of it.  It’s actually very refreshing.  And real.  And just better for our family at times.  I’ll turn it back on eventually. The Winter Olympics being the biggest pull on my interests as of late.  But the news, the reality shows, the song shows, the game shows, even those ‘good’ shows are no match for time I need with Graham or more importantly, the Lord. The kid shows are mostly ridiculous and I was finding they were picking up ‘bad’ habits from the characters.  The whole TV watching thing can be so numbing.  For awhile, it’s nice to get a break.

::  Lastly, when I really want to unwind, relax or just unplug. I go here.


Ok that’s a lie. I usually make a milkshake and talk with Graham or read or work on this eternal blog post, or most recently, go to bed by 9pm.

Hope you enjoyed some secrets from the Stumps.

Mommy’s normal

13 Jan

I remember learning I was one of those 3-4% of women when I watched Princess Katherine stand outside the hospital, flowers in hand, Prince by her side—that extreme morning sickness unable to be hidden any longer.

I realized that while most women feel sick for those first weeks, most overcome it, moving into that glow of motherhood, a smile upon their face, life moving forward as if nothing were happening to them.

By the way, this post is meant to make you smile, laugh even.  I am not seeking sympathy nor am I trying to make it seem like I have it SO hard.  For the benefit of my own sanity, it’s just better to turn something not always fun, into something funny.

I had to do it when Graham was in the ICU, laugh and poke fun at myself and him because the stress of the situation was oftentimes overwhelming. Sure, there were tears and sad times, but if there were ONLY tears and sad times I knew I’d be lying right next to him in an ICU bed diagnosed with a case of the ‘crazies.’

I feel a little crazy as of late because for now my body has been taken over by this precious ‘parasite’ and while it continues to do its job and grow this baby, my brain is not happy about it.  Something inside my head wants to rid itself of its dwelling, as if it’s not sure what this thing is and what it’s doing here.

It’s number four for me so you’d think I’d be prepared and able to handle the changes.


This time around there are many others in the house witnessing the shenanigans. The older boys run for their lives when I awake in the morning.  If I didn’t know any better I’d think it was my bed head, or perhaps my choice of clothing that makes them run.

But no. It’s what’s coming out my mouth that makes them vanish.  They peer at me sometimes, at first scared, but these days in complete annoyance.

“Mom, just eat something.”

“Mom, just stop.”

If only it were that easy.

Often they yell for their father, who at the beginning of every pregnancy starts out so tender and sweet during my dismay, rubbing my back, bringing me water, a tissue.

But now, he runs too.

He takes the kids and away they go. Or sometimes, they continue on with whatever it is they’re doing—building legos, eating breakfast. It’s as if nothing were happening to me. As if I didn’t feel like my insides were going to become my outsides. I know there’s nothing anyone in the house can do for me. So, we’ve all accepted it as normal.

Mommy’s normal.

Once when I was pregnant with my eldest, I too had to go to the hospital. It got so I couldn’t even keep my swallows down. Somehow though, I don’t think I was treated quite like the Princess.  I lay on a bed in the ER hall, the IV dripping life back into me, Graham overtired and exhausted from it all.

When it was all over I don’t remember standing for the cameras looking washed out, yet somehow still cute.  There were no flowers, no get-well wishes. I simply limped home with my stainless steel bowl used for exactly what you’re thinking and readied myself for more of the same.

Thankfully, I DID have a Prince who drove me home!

Fallon, my youngest and only girl, is too little to understand any of what’s going on here.  She climbs over me while I’m slumped over and enjoys copying mommy’s silliness by leaning over the toilet herself.  Her sound effects come included.

In the beginning if someone would have told me to stand on my head while eating a lemon—that that would do the trick, I’d have done it.  So, after the home remedies, advice, counsel and yes, finally medication, I’ve learned nothing works for me.

But I’ve still learned some amazing things through it all:

I’ve learned what to eat so when it comes back for a second visit—it won’t taste so bad.  Cheerios are my best friend.  I like the Honey Nut ones the best.

I’ve learned to line my purse with nuts, mints and other ‘snacks’ in case of emergencies.  My glove compartment is stuffed with Wal-mart bags to help aid my cause.  You may wonder about the common holes found in these bags, but a quick knot in the bottom holds anything entering perfectly.

When I do venture out to church or to pick up the eldest from school I am usually fighting the feeling. The watery mouth is right there and my biggest fear is vomiting all over you when you’re talking to me.  That strained look in my eye?  That’s me fighting hard to focus on anything but what’s happening inside.

Vomiting outside in the horse corral would seem convenient, even fitting.  Yet I often panic when my dogs show up to help with ‘clean up’.  What’s that verse about the dog returning to its own vomit?

I’m sure you’re not smiling anymore.  Now you’re just grossed out.

Whether you think this funny or not. The truth remains.  A woman’s body is an amazing thing. I remain blessed and fortunate to experience life inside of me when so many can’t.

Someone once told me a sick pregnancy is a well-established pregnancy. Perhaps they were just trying to make me feel better. Either way, it helps a bit knowing this life is growing and taking root. As it was designed to.

These next months will feel long, the winter dragging and enduring just as my sickness.

Yet, spring is coming!

I’ll still somehow gain 40 pounds, add a few extra stretch marks to the library and probably end up with some form of acid erosion on my throat. But, this gift at the end? This bit of Graham and bit of me woven together into his or her own person is mind blowing for me to think on.

It makes everything this mom is going through now, completely worth it.

I’m not really into taking ‘selfie’ pictures of myself. Especially pregnant. But, if I were a horse I’ll look similar to this come mid July.


P.S. Thanks for all the sharing of the kindle version of ‘The Dark Stretch’! The last time I checked it had been downloaded 1,450 times!  WOW!!!


My Anvil Heart {and the free ebook of The Dark Stretch}

6 Jan


My heart has been heavy lately—heavy like that anvil Graham once pounded on to secure rivets, buckles. I couldn’t dream of moving that hunk of solid steel by myself, it’d throw my whole body out.

Still, I find it much like my heart, unmoving and stuck, pounded upon, forging and shaping something or other.

And it’s just so heavy, weighted down for those I don’t even know.

My holidays so far have been happy, joyous—filled with memories and traditions I’ve been doing since I was a little girl.  The smells, the sights, the music, all magical and special in their own way, bringing me back to times next to my mother cutting out cookies, decorating the tree, skating the pond.

Yet for some, those same songs that bring tears of happiness to my eyes bring tears of pain to others.

The holidays aren’t always a joyous time.

And while they’re over now, the tree down in our house, the stockings packed away. The memories remain.  The good with the bad. The painful right next to the exciting ones wrapped like the lights we hang from our balcony.

You see, life has to go on for that pregnant wife who lost her husband two days before Christmas. I stand in awe of her faith, her submission to God’s will admirable. But, it’s still hard, her best friend gone, her world never the same. So, I ache for her. Crying for her as if she were my own sister. What’s more bizarre is somehow I am jealous, yet in the same breath would never want to walk her shoes.

In my own community there are people going through REALLY hard times. Their Christmas’s will forever be marked with the memory of hospital stays and unknown futures. I feel their heartbreak as their story travels a similar path as my own with Graham. It’s one I would never wish on anyone.

All this heaviness I feel with the tears right there at the surface make my own days hard to bear as I hug the toilet bowl and crouch over the sink as new life once again takes root deep within me.

Yes, we’re going to make it. Maybe we’ll be labeled as one of those families, but we’re going to be okay. Happy even.

Right now I am barely keeping my head above the waters, this post straining what little energy I have left. But believe it or not, the kids are taken care of. Dinners are somehow made. Baths are given occasionally. Laundry gets cleaned and folded eventually. And the dishes find their way into the dishwasher sooner or later.

The Lord is our keeper here. And while my sanity is oftentimes questioned, my husband a saint—the Lord is right in this crazy mix with me. Somehow through these four tight walls, and the endless sickness, I am continuing to experience God.

Perhaps I am just an anvil.

But maybe. Just maybe I can be a small encouragement to others during their heavy anvil-laden days.  Maybe the Lord wants to use my history, my story to help better theirs.

Being His anvil changes everything. So, I’ll help how I can, taking the poundings of life, the relentless aches for another’s hurt. I’ll share all He’s done for me by giving what I can.

For now that’s our story, written in such a way that only He can claim the glory.

On January 8th & 9th (Wednesday and Thursday of THIS week)you will be able to download ‘The Dark Stretch’ for free on your kindle device or kindle app. Please spread the word as this is only for a limited time and I truly want those who need it most to get it.

I’m finding especially through the heaviness, He’s there. And I want you to experience that too.

Happy downloading! (Remember, this doesn’t start until the 8th. This will give you time to talk, spread and tell others)